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Introduction to 2 Corinthians

Dr. Grant C. Richison


Author: Paul (2 Co 1:1; 10:1)

Born in Tarsus, Ac 21:39; 22:3

Noted trading center

Known for its manufacture of goat’s hair cloth

Paul learned tent making trade in Tarsus

Famous university there

Roman citizen

Used as a shield against magistrates

Used to advance Christianity

Jewish heritage, Php 3:5; Ro 9:1-2

Son of a Pharisee, Ac 23:6

Cradled in Orthodox Judaism


Paul began his studies at age 13 under the famous Gamaliel (Ac 22:3; 26:4-5). 

First appearance, Ac 7:58

Paul at least 30 years old

Acknowledged leader in Judaism (Ac 7:58-8:3; 9:1-2; cf. 26:10-11; 1 Ti 1:12f

Conversion by direct appearance of Jesus, Ac 9:1ff

Paul at least 30 years old

Paul was greatest missionary of the first century

Paul’s character

Labors, burning zeal, untiring industry, singleness of aim, patient, suffering, sublime courage, fearless independence (Ga 2:11)

Importance of Paul’s life

Conversion a testimony for truth

Academic activity is of utmost importance to the doctrinal foundation of Christianity

Missionary activity – to almost all the civilized world at that time (Ro 15:24; Ep 2:14)

Recipients of 2 Corinthians

The cosmopolitan church in the city of Corinth and central to southern Greece (2 Co 1:1; 6:11). Second Corinthians was written to circulate throughout the entire region.

Political setting

-third year of Nero

-Roman empire expanding

-twenty-five years after the crucifixion

Occasion of Writing Second Corinthians

Sometime after Paul left Corinth reports came to him about problems in the church. Before writing Second Corinthians, he visited Corinth a second time. This visit went poorly (2 Co 2:1). He went back to Ephesus and wrote a sorrowful letter (2 Co 2:1-4). At the time of writing Second Corinthians false teachers had come to undermine Paul’s person and message (2 Co 10:1-2, 10). These people claimed to be super-apostles (2 Co 11:5, 23; 12:11). Paul went to Corinth to correct this problem, which he described as a “painful” visit (2 Co 2:1). These people defied Paul (2 Co 2:5-8,10; 7:12). However, some reaffirmed their loyalty to Paul (2 Co 7:7) but the false teachers were still in Corinth. Therefore, Paul defended his apostleship in Second Corinthians.

At the time of writing Second Christians the Jerusalem church underwent poverty. Paul challenged the Corinthians to financially support the church in Jerusalem.


The majority of Corinthians were positive to Paul and his ministry.

The minority were negative toward Paul (2 Co 10:10).

-A vigorous faction refused to recognize Paul’s authority as an apostle.

-This group trumped up new charges against Paul. They made new charges toward Paul:

–they accused Paul of treating them lightly (2 Co 1:16-18).

–accused Paul of pride (2 Co 1:24).

–they said he walked according to the flesh (2 Co 10:2).

–they said he was a coward (2 Co 10:10)

–they said he demeaned himself by manual labor (2 Co 11:7)

–they claimed that he was not one of the original apostles and was not qualified as an apostle (2 Co 11:5; 12:11,12)

–they said that he was cunning (2 Co 12:16)


A.D. 56 from Macedonia during Paul’s third missionary enterprise. Second Corinthians was written after he left Ephesus and while he was in Macedonia.

Paul sent Titus to Corinth while he was still in Ephesus. Titus’ non-arrival at Troas made Paul anxious about the state of the church at Corinth. Paul crossed over to Macedonia and met Titus there. Titus told Paul of the cordial reception the Corinth church had toward his correspondence. However, Titus told Paul of further problems in the Corinthian church, so Paul wrote Second Corinthians from Macedonia.

Place of writing

The province of Macedonia in Greece (2 Co 7:5; 8:1; 9:2).

Purpose (2 Co 13:10)

Paul wrote Second Corinthians

-to defend of his person ,role, and message.

-to glorify God (19 times).

-to explain the purpose of his suffering (2 Co 1:3-11)

-to justify his change of plans to come to them (2 Co 1:12-2:4)

-to give instructions on how to treat the offender (2 Co 2:5-11)

-to express his joy at the Corinthians positive response to him (2 Co 2:12-13)

-to represent the gospel as superior to the law (2 Co 2:14-6:10)

-to appeal to separation and reconciliation to him (2 Co 6:11-7:16)

-to urge the Corinthians to speedily make a collection for the poor in Jerusalem (2 Co 8-9)

-to establish his authority as an apostle (2 Co 10:1-13:10)

Theme–Ministry for Christ

Second Corinthians is primarily theological rather than practical.


Second Corinthians is the most autobiographical books of the Bible.

Vindication of Paul’s authority and ministry.

Not tightly organized.

Most personal, least doctrinal except for Philemon

Marked difference from First Corinthians

Striking metaphors

Key words

Different forms of “ministry”—18 times

Glory”—20 times

City of Corinth

Historical background

Romans destroyed Corinth in 146 B.C., but the city was rebuilt by Julius Caesar 100 years later in 46 B.C. This Caesar established a Roman colony (established to adopt Roman law and culture) in Corinth, giving it a strong Roman influence. It was geographically in Greece but culturally Rome.

In the time of Paul one third of the city was composed of slaves. The city itself was splendid and modern for the time. Great crowds attended the Isthmian games. Much trade took place in the city because of its two ports. The city was a magnet for people from all over the world. It was a cosmopolitan city of Greek, Roman and Oriental. Travelers from around the world came to Corinth.

Corinth was a prosperous city because of its ports. The city hosted the Isthmian Games held every two years. It was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia.

Corinth in Paul’s day was the commercial metropolis of Greece. It was one of the largest, richest and most important cities of the Roman Empire. It was the hub of commerce in the first century.

It was a Roman colony and capital of province of Achaia.

Population – 600,000, surpassed only by Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.

Corinth was a city-state

Jews flocked to Corinth: Ac 18:1-18; 1 Co 9:20

City described in derogatory term “Corinthanize” –equivalent to “Paris of Antiquity”

Location of Corinth

Corinth located in southern Greece, where the Peloponnesus separated from northern Greece by a four-mile-wide isthmus. 

Situated on the principal trade route for land (north and south). Near land bridge between Peloponnesus and mainland Greece. There were two nearby ports:

On the east—near the port city Cenchrea six miles east of the Saronic Gulf

On the west — the port city of Lechaeum, which was two miles north of the Corinthian Gulf

Sailors dreaded sailing over 200 miles around the southern capes of the Peloponnesus because of natural dangers so they rolled ships and cargo across the peninsula:

Dangerous to sail around Peloponnesus

Smaller ships and cargos hauled across the Isthmus on rollers (4 miles)

Corinth was a natural resting place for sailors during trans-shipment

Strategic location–the importance of the city was strategic in Paul’s world mission strategy

The Acrocorth

The Acrocorinth was an acropolis (high city). The massive Acrocorinth overshadowed the city. The Acrocorinth was big enough to hold the entire population of Corinth. It stood on a 1900-foot mountain.

The Acrocorinth held the temple of Aphrodite (goddess of sex) holding 1000 ritual prostitutes both female and male.

The Acrocorth was both a place of defense and pagan worship. Many other temples were located on this site

Paul’s Connection to the Church at Corinth (Ac 18:1-18,27; 19:1,21,22; 20:1,2)

Paul had a seven-year rocky relationship with the Corinthian church. He went through several phases with this assembly of believers beginning with his second missionary journey.

Paul made three visits to the city between A.D. 50 and 56. Coming down from Thessalonica and Berea in the north, Paul came for the first time to the city of Corinth in the autumn of A.D. 50 (Ac 17:1-15; 18:1-18; 1 Th 2:17-18). He worked as a tentmaker (Ac 18:12-17). This was toward the end of his second missionary journey.

Luke records the founding of the church of Corinth in Acts 18:1-18. The church started in a Jewish synagogue composed of both Jews and Gentiles (Ac 18:4-5). Paul stayed 18 months (Ac 18:18-28) and established the church with fellow tent makers Aquila and Priscilla in A.D. 51. The leader of the synagogue (Crispus) became a believer (Ac 18:8). Opposition came from the Jews, but the Roman Gallio refused to hear the case because of its religious nature.

Paul left Corinth for a visit to Jerusalem and Antioch about A.D. 52 with Aquila and Priscilla. From there he went to Ephesus to set up his base of operations for three years. Apollos became the next leader of the Corinthian church (Ac 18:24-19:1).

Paul returned to Ephesus for two and one-half years on his 3rd missionary journey in the fall of A.D. 53, from which he wrote First Corinthians. He had already written a non-canonical letter (1 Co 5:9). Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church in his early stay in Ephesus before he wrote First Corinthians (1 Co 5:9).

Once back in Ephesus Paul wrote a “severe letter” to the church at Corinth (we do not have a copy of this letter). This correspondence was a rebuke to the church about the person who caused him trouble in his previous visit.

While in Ephesus a delegation came from Corinth and told him about troubles in the Corinthian church (1 Co 1:11-12; 16:15-18). While yet still in Ephesus, Paul received a letter from the Corinthian church raising a number of questions they had about Christian living (1 Co 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12).

Paul wrote First Corinthians in A.D. 54. He wrote this epistle to clarify the lost letter, to answer Chloe’s group, and to answer specific issues raised in First Corinthians.

Paul announced his intention for a lengthy visit Corinth (1 Co 16:7), but he changed his mind and made an emergency visit from Ephesus (1 Co 16:8). This visit ended in a tense relationship between the Corinthians and Paul (2 Co 2:1-4). A leader in the Corinthian church affronted Paul, but the church did not deal with the individual that did this (2 Co 2:5). This event undermined the authority of Paul’s apostleship.

In A.D. 55 Paul made a second visit to Corinth (2 Co 13:2). We do not know the purpose of this visit. However, we know that this was “painful” (2 Co 2:1). The apostle had to confront a ringleader in the church. No one in the church came to his defense for this personal attack on his integrity (2 Co 2:5-11).

Following the visit that grieved Paul, he wrote another letter from Ephesus, which we do not possess (2 Co 2:4). Titus carried this letter to Corinth (2 Co 2:13; 7:5-16). Paul worried about how the church would receive Titus. Upon not hearing about Titus, Paul went to the city of Troy (Troas) to go to crossover to Macedonia. He found Titus with good news that the Corinthian church welcomed Paul’s letter (2 Co 7:7, 11, 12).

Paul wrote Second Corinthians after this second visit to Corinth (his fourth letter to the church). He wrote this letter because of the positive report from Titus. This epistle was to prepare the congregation for his third visit. Paul structured Second Corinthians around his broken relationship with the church (2 Co 1:12-2:17; 2:1).

Paul wrote Second Corinthians from Macedonia, where he met Titus (2 Co 7:5-6). Paul then sent this last correspondence to the Corinthians. He wrote his most severe response to this situation in 2 Corinthians 10-13, where he refuted the phony apostles from Macedonia. He spent three months there. Titus carried Second Corinthians to the church in A.D. 56 (2 Co 7:16).

Paul visited Corinth for the third time (Ac 20:2-3) around A.D. 56 or 57. He stayed for three months during this visit. He came again to Corinth following his Roman imprisonment (1 Ti 1:3; 2 Ti 4:20).


First visit to Corinth on second missionary journey, A.D. 51.

Left Corinth with Priscilla and Acquila for Ephesus, A.D. 52.

Paul left Ephesus for Jerusalem, A.D. 52.

Returned on third missionary journey to Asia:

–to Galatia and Phrygia

–to Ephesus again (stayed 3 years, Acts 19)

Re-established his connection with the Corinthian church

Paul wrote a letter (now lost), which the Corinthians misunderstood (1 Co 5:9).

The house of Chloe reported problems in the Corinthian church (1 Co 5:9-11). An official delegation came from the Corinthian church about problems in the church (1 Co 16:17). Paul wrote First Corinthians to address these problems. Timothy may have carried this letter to Corinth.

Paul visited Corinth for the second time, but this visit was “painful” (2 Co 2:1, 5; 7:12).  After he returned to Ephesus, Paul sent a third and severe letter to the Corinthians (now lost) in response to this painful visit carried by Titus.

Leaving Ephesus due to a riot, Paul went to Troas (Troy) hoping to meet Titus there. Having not found Titus he went to Macedonia (Ac 20:1-3), where he met Titus.

Paul wrote Second Corinthians from Macedonia. He asked Titus to carry this epistle to Corinth (2 Co 2:12, 13; 7:5,6; 9:2,4).

Paul visited Corinth for the third time in A.D. 56-57 (Ac 20:2-3).


Introduction (1:1–11)

Paul’s defense of his person (1:12–2:11) 1:10-

Paul’s defense of his ministry (2:12–7:16)

Collection for the Jerusalem church (8:1–9:15)

Preparation for Paul’s visit (10:1–13:13)

Alternate Outlines

Introduction and personal testimony, 1:1-2:13

Glory of ministry, 2:14-7:16

Glory of giving, 8:1-9:15

Defending ministry, 10:1-13:14


True Ministry, 1:1-7:16

Giving Ministry, 8:1-9:15

Apostleship Ministry, 10:1-13:14



Salutation, 1:1-2

Thanksgiving, 1:3-11

-for comfort, 1:3-11

-for deliverance, 1:8-11

The Ministry, 1:12-7:16

Defense of Paul’s ministry, 1:12-2:17

The glory of ministry, 3:1-6:10

The Collection, 8-9

Example of the Macedonians 8:1-6

Example of Christ, 8:7-9

Principles of giving, 8:10-9:5

Results of liberality, 9:6-15

The Vindication, 10:1-13:14

Paul’s authority, 10

Reasons for his authority, 11:1-15

Paul’s suffering prove apostleship, 12:1-10

Paul’s unselfish love proves his apostleship, 12:11-18

Paul will demonstrate his apostleship when he comes, 12:19-13:10

Conclusion, 13:11-14